Intercountry adoption: Russian parliament ratifies Russia-US pact

The Russian parliament ratified an adoption law aimed at regulation the adoption of Russian children by Americans a year after the agreement was reached with the US.

Misha Japaridze/AP
Artyom Savelyev, a 9-year-old Russian boy, is in a foster home in Tomilino, outside Moscow in April 2012. Savelyev is a Russian boy whose adoptive mother sent him on a plane alone from the US back to Moscow in April 2010. Today the Russian Parliament ratified a law aimed at regulating the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

Russia's parliament on Tuesday ratified a long-awaited agreement with the United States regulating the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

The ratification by a 244-96-2 vote in the State Duma came a year after the two countries worked out the pact.

Key questions and answers about the agreement:

HOW DID THE AGREEMENT COME ABOUT?

Russian officials had long complained about the abuse and even killings of children by their adoptive parents — saying at least 19 Russian adoptive children have died at their American parents' hands.

The issue came to a head in April 2010 when an American adoptive mother sent her 7-year-old boy back to Russia on a one-way ticket, saying he had behavioral problems.

In the wake of that case, some Russian officials called for adoptions by Americans to be halted altogether. That never happened, but some adoption agencies working in Russia said their applications were frozen for several months.

Russian and US officials signed an agreement aimed at ending the dispute in 2011, but the Russian parliament waited nearly a year to ratify it due to technicalities.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AMERICANS WHO WANT TO ADOPT RUSSIAN CHILDREN

Ratification should end the strife and allow adoptions to resume efficiently.

All adoptions would have to be processed through adoption agencies registered in Russia. The agreement requires the agencies to monitor the child's upbringing, schedule visits by a social worker and send reports to Russian authorities.

The deal makes sure that prospective American parents would have better information about the social and medical histories of Russian children.

HOW WILL IT IMPACT RUSSIA?

By providing monitoring, the agreement is likely to reassure a public angered by the abuse and deaths. It also could undercut complaints by nationalists that Russian children are being "sold."

The poorly controlled flow of Russian adoptions highlighted sensitivity over the loss of children as Russia faces a demographic crisis due to low birth rates.

Full resumption of adoptions will mean increased opportunity for Russian orphans to leave underfunded and crowded orphanages. There are more than 740,000 children without parental custody in Russia, according to UNICEF. Russians historically have been less inclined to adopt children than in many other cultures.

WHY IS THE DEAL IMPORTANT FOR AMERICANS?

Russia has been a major source of adopted children in the US for two decades.

In the 2011 fiscal year, Russia was the third-largest source of foreign adoption by Americans with 962 adoptions, trailing China and Ethiopia.

Adoptions from Russia peaked in 2004 at 5,862 adoptions, according to the State Department. Their number was 1,586 in 2009 — a year before Russia demanded an agreement regulating adoptions.

More than 60,000 Russian orphans have been adopted in the US, according to the National Council For Adoption, a US advocacy nonprofit group. Russian children rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov insists that the number could be as high as 100,000. The discrepancy could be due to the Russian government's virtual absence of adoption records before 1996.

RECENT ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE OF RUSSIAN ADOPTED CHILDREN

Michael and Nanette Craver from Pennsylvania were sentenced in 2011 to up to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter of their adoptive 7-year-old Russian son. A jury acquitted them of murder charges, but concluded they were negligent and responsible for the death.

Jessica Beagley from Alaska was convicted in 2011 of child abuse for pouring hot sauce into her adopted Russian son's mouth.

In May, Martin and Kathleen O'Brien from Wisconsin were charged with an array of counts connected to allegations they systematically punished their four adopted Russian children, including beatings with sticks and belts. Their trial is ongoing.

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